We all love introducing new chickens to our flock. There’s nothing more exciting in the backyard chicken world than adding that Silkie you’ve always wanted or an amazing Rhode Island Red or Australorp for egg laying.
However integrating them to the flock can be a huge hassle. Even experienced backyard chicken enthusiasts may get nervous when adding new chickens. You may wonder if you chose the right breed or if you should’ve gone for younger birds.
Introducing new chickens to the flock doesn’t have to be hard. Here’s how to make sure they’re ready to be bff’s and have them clucking together in no time.
Do your new chickens need quarantine?
Before introducing new chickens to your flock yo want to make sure they’re not gonna carry anything harmful with them, specially if they’re adults from another farm.
The best way to do this is to have a small and cheap coop from Amazon or even a large crate ready for them. You want to inspect them closely. Do they have signs of mites or other external parasites? Are they legs healthy and not scaly?
Ideally you’ll want to keep them there for around a month. During that time you can see how they behave and interact as well as their eating habits. This is also enough time for you to make sure they’re not going to be a danger for your existing flock. It may look long but remember, it only takes one sick chicken to bring down a whole flock.
If you’re getting young chicks from a reputable hatcher like Cackle Hatchery or if you hatched them yourself and are introducing them for the first time, you can obviously skip this step.
The Pecking Order
Before introducing them make sure you know how the pecking order works. We’ll write an article to go into the pecking order with all the details but for now all you need to know is this:
The pecking order is a simple hierarchy structure within the flock. The chickens at the top get to eat first, the chickens at the bottom eat what remains. If there’s a rooster he’ll be automatically the one at the top. If there’s no rooster then the most dominant hen will take that place.
The pecking order is nothing more than a way to determine which ones are the strongest and most dominant chickens and which ones are the most passive ones.
When introducing new chickens they’ll need to figure out how they’re affecting the pecking order and which one will be their new spot.
When to introduce new chickens
The key to get chickens to know them is by introducing new chickens slowly. First they should be able to see them but not to interact with them. You can achieve this by moving their temporary living area closer to the main chicken coop. Let them get to know each other for about a week.
Then get the new chickens inside the coop at night. At night they usually just want to sleep and will be less prone to get feisty. Don’t introduce a new chicken alone! Get at least one partner with them so you know even if the flock takes time to accept her, she won’t be isolated. However don’t introduce a whole bunch at once. Usually introducing them two by two is ideal.
The first morning
During the morning make sure you are prepared to feed them enough. you can even install another feeder and waterer to make sure they won’t fight for food. Then start feeding them.
Now remember, new chickens need to establish their place in the pecking order. At this stage it’s normal for them to fight and peck at each other. Unless there’s blood, don’t interact with them. It may be hard but it should be over pretty quickly.
Make sure that day they have enough distractions! We love this Chick-N-Veggie treat ball. It’s as simple as putting a lettuce inside and hang it where they can peck it. Just as humans, introducing new fun activities is the best way to make sure they’re bonding and integrating to the flock.
A few tips:
- If you want to increase their chances of getting along, try to introduce them in a new area. They’ll both be confused by the new environment and less prone to fight.
- Don’t introduce, say, a tiny Silkie bantam to a flock of Brahmas. Try to make sure they’re approximately the same size.
- This is a great time to give them treats. If you give them a whole bunch of mealworms and provide distractions, they’ll be too busy to bother fighting.
- Problems with bully birds? Isolate the bully for a couple of days. Once she comes back she would’ve lost her place in the pecking order, making her more docile to the rest.
- If you still have issues with chickens fighting, check out this article!